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  1. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    Introducing Characters late into the book

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mikmaxs, Dec 29, 2016.

    As the title says. In order for my story to work as written, two of my main characters won't meet up with the third "Main" character until most of the way (3/5ths) through to book, and I won't be able to introduce the antagonist until about the same time. A large portion of the story is basically road-tripping to find the bad guy, so there's interesting things happening prior to meeting these characters, but I'm worried that the bad guy won't seem as intimidating or relevant as he should, and the new ally won't feel like she belongs.

    Any advice for making that work?
     
    amerrigan likes this.
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Dark, is it not? Contributor

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    IDK.

    Two of my MC's don't meet up with the third for like 20 .doc pages, but build this third MC up by
    showing who this character is in the events leading up to them all meeting for the first time. I wanted
    to build this character while the other two are sorting their own things out between each other.

    So not really knowing much about your sitch, it is hard to know whether this third MC you want to
    introduce much later on will affect the intimidation of the villain. I would suggest getting a fresh
    pair of eyes to read your work through to the parts you're questioning to see if it will help/hinder
    the MC that you want to introduce much later in the story. Though it already feels like this MC
    is more a secondary, mainly due to them not being their at the beginning. Again not saying that
    they are not an important member of the cast, but it would be better to be get fresh eyes on the
    story and get some different opinions. :)
     
  3. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A) How much does everybody know about the bad guy before meeting him, and B) can you go back and forth between what characters 1&2 are doing and what character 3 is doing before they meet up?
     
  4. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    They know he's a sorcerer, and that he kidnapped a bunch of people. We also find out shortly before meeting him that he's a somewhat well-known figure in the world, but this isn't apparent to the characters until after they meet him. I drop a few mentions of him prior to the characters discovering who he is, but only in a general sense. (He's a war criminal, sort of, so he gets brought up whenever arguing about the morality of sorcerers/etc.)

    As for the other character... She's stuck in prison. The other characters decide that they need her help to stop the bad guy, and spring her free. She's not doing much until they come get her.
     
  5. OJB

    OJB Contributing Member

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    There is a device in writing called Chekhov's gun, in which you state something (in the set-up of the story) that seems to have little importance to the story (like the MC owns a gun) that doesn't come into play until later (like when the MC pulls out that gun and kills the villain on the last page.) The most important part is to reference whatever element you want to come into play later, at the start of your story.

    The best example of this is device is in the movie "Along came a spider." Morgan freeman talks to someone about their father's famous hunting gun at the start of the movie (Seems like mindless backstory when it happens.) but guess what? Morgan freeman uses that gun way later in the movie to take out the villain.
     
  6. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    I'm familiar with Chekov's gun. The problem is that there's not a good way to use it a lot without being pretty obvious. If one of my characters says "Say, did I ever tell you about my friend? She's really great at fighting, and super great. Locked up in jail right now, though." Then it's going to seem pretty obvious that she'll be showing up later on. I also want it to be a surprise that the bad guy is who he is, so I don't want to be too over-the-top there either.
     
  7. OJB

    OJB Contributing Member

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    That depends on how you use it. If you make mention of this character, but 10 chapters go by without any sight or thought of them, the reader might just 'forget' until poof, there's the character.
     
  8. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    In that case, it'd just come off like a non sequitor, or else it wouldn't accomplish much.
    Either way, though, it doesn't help much for my good guy character, because she's not just a plot device, and I really don't want to treat her as such. My problem is that I'm worried she won't seem like part of the group, not that she will seem unrealistic if she's not foreshadowed.
     
  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Dark, is it not? Contributor

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    I agree with @OJB that mentioning someone on point in 100 pages (or however long) once in a
    brief conversation before ever mentioning them again until they are 'important', will actually
    degrade the characters importance to the story.
    Honestly consider making them a strong secondary character, seeing as they are less important
    to the entire story in comparison to the other MCs. Or you give them an equal part and explore
    their side of the story leading up to when they meet the other MCs.

    Again, and @Jest Write said. Get some fresh eyes and a different opinion on it, otherwise this is
    going to go around and round. We are here to help you. :)
     
  10. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does it need to be a surprise that the sorcerer they're going after also turns out a famous war criminal?

    Why do they need her?
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  11. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    Yes, for two reasons:
    One, I'm trying to create an "Ohshit" moment where the good guys realize just who it is that they're up again. (I just don't want it to come off wrong, I'm worried it'll read like: "Hahaha, I am the final boss and must therefore be really strong!")

    Second, there's some character stuff going on. One of my MCs has interacted - indirectly, but interacted nonetheless - with this guy before.

    She's an extra body that they can trust, mostly. They're planning on an assault against a heavily fortified... Well, fortress, and three will have better odds than two. She's an expert at violence, and has a lot of experience working with one of the heroes.[/QUOTE][/QUOTE]
     
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  12. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributing Member

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    You can do like the walking dead and have your villain kill off a major character in his introduction.
     
  13. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, this may not be terribly helpful but my general thought is that of course you CAN do these things well - that's the answer to most questions about plotting (flashbacks, large casts, non-linear timelines, etc.) - the key is knowing what you're doing, realizing that it's a potential pitfall, and consciously figuring out what it needs to do to work.

    The late-appearing antagonist seems like something I've seen a lot, so as long as you foreshadow that there IS an antagonist, and you see the effects of said antagonist - revealing the character late could even be a fun reveal.

    I'm in process of adapting my own thinking on introducing characters late - I dropped a few of those in my current WIP and was biting my nails waiting to see if my beta reader slapped my wrist on that exact point. Didn't happen. Reader was totally fine with late breaking developments, and the characters I threw up near the end are people you're going to need more for the sequel than the current book (where they have smaller roles) - that and in my case I have a pretty large cast so it ended up being helpful that I introduced them one at a time to give the reader time to get to know each of them.

    So, yeah, it's all totally possible, but be conscious of making stuff work for the story rather than doing it haphazardly.
     
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  14. Kritikilthynkr

    Kritikilthynkr New Member

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    It is fine. Here is why the problem is you are thinking of characters as main characters or secondary characters. So let's say that Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity are going to take a road trip from Jersey to Colorado for sure but then maybe later to California or Mexico or whatever. The journey between Sal and Dean with various passengers in their car as they drive across country pulls the two characters together and binds them in the reader's heart forever as a pair, and yet they separate much earlier than you think. New main characters come in later on such as "Old Bull" who stick around Sal for long-time and feels like he's been with us most of the trip.
    Introducing someone important later is important. Are they the main character? No. Luke met Han pretty early in the game, but we did meet Lando halfway through Empire did we not?
    So...think of it all this way, no matter what anyone else says to you, it all comes down to how you present your characters. How you show their relationships to others, to their surroundings, to their inner thoughts. You don't need to spend hundreds of pages on a road trip, and you don't need about introducing someone later who becomes important because that is how life works. People come in later.

    Just do not all of a sudden intro a new character that will have major impact on the story and the readers time without easing into the character otherwise you are pushing the reader into a relationship they aren't ready for. Do not insist that the reader should instantly accept and bring a new character into their life but transition them in, let someone else begin to fall back a bit behind the pages as you emphasize the new character more and more, until you have three well rounded character that can mingle.
     
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  15. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm hoping you meant your antag is only going to make his first appearance at around 3/5th into the book, rather than that you'll only introduce him then? The antag and the third character will need skillful foreshadowing, but if the third "MC" doesn't come in until 3/5th into the book, she's gonna look like a plot device thrown in for convenience's sake to allow for you to make a logical ending, which will seem contrived. But if she's foreshadowed well, then it should be fine.

    However, I question how she could be a main character if she isn't even in most of the book? Important to the functioning of the plot, perhaps, but definitely not main. Main character is the one whose story we follow, and most of the time, though not always, the point of view character.

    I did once put down a book because a brand new character got introduced about 70% into the book. I thought it was ridiculous. But then, it was also because the book had new characters in almost every chapter - frequently there will be a new and equally important person just popping up out of nowhere and I got tired of following a brand new subplot each time when I just wanted to get on with the main plot. So when yet another new one appears at 70% in, I just thought, screw this. I never did finish the book.
     
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  16. amerrigan

    amerrigan Member

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    All these are great points on doing it right, but, man I'd love to see you do it 'wrong'.

    Don't mention the characters, don't foreshadow them, then suddenly introduce them with a massive 'THESE ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS NOW' BAM completely shift P.O.V. and just absolutely shunt the reader out of what they expect.

    Evil sorcerer just explodes onto the pages out of nowhere. Former protagonists suddenly understand that all the little things happening in their lives had been bizarrely leading up to this point without them knowing that's what it was the whole time.

    Kind of like Dirk Gently crossed with Psycho but with magic.

    I'd read that book.
     
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  17. Jaydrian

    Jaydrian Member

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    As long as you give the respected third character enough development it shouldn't be an issue when you bring him/her into the story. Make sure the story line permits it, and that character isn't just baggage. As for the antagonist; there also shouldn't be issues if you do it right. In one of my favorite book series the main villain is in it for maybe a chapter, but good lord was he the most terrifying thing I'd ever read. Make sure the antagonist's entrance is epic, enticing, and enough to state "I'm here, I'm serious, and I'm about to kick all your asses." A good way to do that is to tease this villain throughout the novel. Just little nods and moments to make the reader nervous and on the edge of their seats as they near the moment.
     
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  18. making tracks

    making tracks Member

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    Is it a secret that she is in prison? If not, could her name be one of many they read in a newspaper or similar early on where your readers won't necessarily know that it is her who is important? For example, could the main characters be pretending to read a newspaper whilst secretly watching someone they're following (etc) so the audience doesn't realise that what they are glancing at is later relevant?

    I also think, as a few others have said, that bringing in a character later on isn't a problem as long as they seem like a well fleshed-out character and not just a plot device.
     

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